Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Great guitar-related article

Florida Cracker has a fantastic post up about a guitar collector. As you know, I am a sucker for guitar posts.

Word Cloud

This is neat.

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If you have a blog, create your own here. Just don't order a T-shirt unless you mean to.

Lifted shamelessly from Sheila.

The Dream Meme (not really)

Picking up the meme theme from Nightly and Noonz, it the Four Things Meme. It's been modified a bit by the different folks who've done it, so I'm picking the parts I like and doing them.

Four Jobs I've Had in My Life
Door-to-door magazine salesman (ooooh boy did that suck)
Newspaper advertisement inserter at a newspaper
Video store assistant manager
Newspaper advertising layout/design

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over, and Have
12 Monkeys
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
(There are way more than four that I could say this about.)

Four Places I Have Lived
Jonesboro, LA (born)
Biloxi, MS
Yomitan, Okinawa
Fort Huachuca, AZ

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch
My Name Is Earl
The Office
WWE Raw (he says with shame)

Four Places I Have Been on Vacation
Avery Island, LA
Snake River, ID
Grand Canyon/Flagstaff, AZ
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan (heh heh)

Four Websites I Visit Daily
Something Awful
FOX News
Every site I have linked at right

Four Favorite Foods
Beef Jerkey

Well, that's the stuff I could do without thinking about it too hard. I was tempted to do the Four Albums one, but that probably deserves its own post.

OK, I'm getting old

Friday night, WunderKraut, myself and loyal reader Crotalus went into the downtown of our tiny town to see Kevin Kinney play live. Well, it was hard. The sound was mixes horribly and made listening to the opening band nearly unbearable. The opening act wasn't all that good to begin with, so the bad sound just compounded the problem.

By the time Kevin Kinney hit the stage, I'd about had enough. The sound was painful. The throngs of twenty-somethings were now passing out and throwing up. It wasn't fun to watch and I couldn't even enjoy listening to the band.

BUT, what really has me thinking about my age is today's Top 99 Most Desireable Woman story at AskMen.com. Of course the woman listed here are all beautiful, and desireable, I guess, to some. But my problem is with a few of the entires. Particularly #90: Amanda Bynes.

Image hosting by PhotobucketIs she a pretty girl? For sure. But she's A CHILD! I cannot get that idea out of my mind. I can't remember exactly from what movie/show I know her from, but ever since she's hit the scene, I've always felt she was a cute little girl. But that's all I've ever thought, a cute little girl.

Now she's on a most desireable woman list. Just doesn't seem right.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Because I’m All About the Guitar Pt. 14: The Finish

A couple of BIAAtGs ago I talked about different woods used in guitar manufacture. I also mentioned that woods, their musical properties and how people like to employ them has almost as much to do with mojo as it has to do with the properties of the wood. I didn't feel too much like tackling the subject of mojo then, but now I've decided to take on a topic that is more mojo-ridden in the world of guitars than any other - the guitar finish.

I'm going to say this up front, for those of you who are just skimming or just want to look at the pretty pictures, for all the descriptions and detail I go into about the processes, etc. of finishing, when it comes to sound: thin finish = better.

So, why go into any of the following? Because, how do you know one finish from the next? AND, if you do know how to tell or what to ask, the reasons why some of the stuff is the way it is, is weird.

Before I begin talking about finish, I should probably talk a little bit about the physics of a guitar's sound. We know that an acoustic guitar makes sound by amplifying the plucked string. The sound of the string itself is amplified by the big hollow body. There are many factors, including finish, that goes into the quality, quantity and length of that sound.

Electric guitars are a bit more difficult. They are amplified by magnetic pickups. The movement of the string creates a signal that is run to an amplifier. So, we're technically not amplifying the string "sound" but rather the disturbance of the magnetic field.

The amount the string vibrates particularly influences the guitar tone, resonance and sustain in both electric and acoustic guitars. So, why is this important? Well, the finish of the guitar can directly effect the string vibrations and the resonance of the wood. Hence thin finish = better ... generally.

There are many, many, many, many different types of guitar finishes and systems. I'm going to cover some of the more popular and generic versions as most the others are variations of these. I'm not covering these chronologically, but rather Cullenlogically, which is to say with lack of logical progression but with method of madness.

Click images for full-size images.

Image hosting by Photobucket"Classic" guitar paint jobs, nitrocellulose lacquer finish First, I should say, this isn't a classic guitar, but rather a reproduction made in that style. This is what most of the late '50s early '60s model Fenders and some Gibsons look like today. The guitar manufacturers used really thin and very few layers of paint with a really thin layer of nitrocellulose lacquer. As you can see, is isn't a long-lasting finish. It wears greatly with use. But one of the reasons these guitars are so highly sought after is because of these thin finishes. The belief being that these finishes effect the guitar so slightly that the tone of the wood and strings really shines through. There are those who think that this is bunk, and that for other reasons -- electronics, wood, etc.-the instruments sound superior. "Vintage" electronics are also the subject of much contention though. It seems to me, that pickup technology has come a long way. I read somewhere that the reason people think these instruments sound so much better is because, over time, they've had different repairs done to them and had electronics replaced to make them sound better while keeping that same thin finish. I tend to agree.

Image hosting by PhotobucketPolyester Finish The late '70s and '80s were the heyday of outrageous paint jobs adorning the guitars of our favorite bands. Eddie's strips, Zach's bullseye, blocks, pictures, portraits, stickers, and just about anything else you can think of adorned the guitars. Here's the thing, as rock got more aggressive, the tone of the guitar started to lose it's importance. A cool looking guitar with tons of goop on it could amply deliver the needed sound as long as the electronic hardware was in place. So there came layers and layers of thick paint and thicker finishes. Polyester resin is a very common finish used today. It's easy and cheap for guitar companies to use and make their instruments look good. The majority of guitars you see on the stands today have polyester finishes. For that matter, the majority of pianos you see today have this same finish.

The advantages are that polyester finishes are very tough. They last a long time and look good for a long time. The bad thing is, as I hinted at above, this thicker finish dampens sound. The thick finish doesn't allow the wood and therefore, the strings, to vibrate as well as thinner finishes. Tone is dampened, sustain is cut. BUT, if you're playing hard rock or metal, this isn't very important. You're playing off the tone of your pickups and amp more anyway. However, if you're playing jazz or blues, you should be very concerned about this.

On acoustics, you can imagine that these finishes would more directly effect the sound. You would be right. If you're shopping acoustics, I would avoid any that has a solid color paint job.

Image hosting by PhotobucketJet Guitars, like the one pictured here, use very thin polyester finishes. Jet guitars are considered some of the highest quality electric guitars ever built.

For buyers of electrics there are ways to tell if the guitar you're looking at has a polyester or nitro finish. First, if you're picking it up off the rack and it has a name on it that you recognize, you should automatically assume it has a polyester finish. You can ask the salesperson for documentation. You can also ask the salesperson to take off one of the strap buttons. Look at the hole where the button is screwed to the guitar. If you see a thick layer of paint and finish, it's poly. If there's hardly any noticeable distance between finish and wood, it's either a really good poly job or it's nitro. But, the big thing to keep in mind here is that you should play the instruments through the kind of amplification you have/want to have and see for yourself. Regardless of if it's poly or nitro, there are plenty of good-sounding guitars using both finishes. Experiment.

Image hosting by PhotobucketNatural Oil So, the best possible sound would be a guitar with no finish, right? Ideally, yes. The problem is that the natural oils and gunk on the human body will destroy the wood over time. Many people hate finishes on their guitar necks, sand it off, only to regret it when they have to replace the necks a couple of years down the road. So, most high-end manufacturers and big-name custom shops offer the next best thing - an oil finish.

Advantages: An oil finish, like tung oil or even Miniwax Antique Finishes are actually a shellac-based oil finish. They don't block the pores of the wood thereby allowing the instrument to sing. It also feels most natural and your hand doesn't get stuck on a gunky neck like on highly finished necks. Oil finishes can be colored to warm up certain woods. Oil finishes are easy to apply.

Disadvantages: Oil finishes don't last very long. You have to reapply finish every so often - depending on how often it's handled. Also, while protecting the wood from the oils and dirt on your hands and arms, it doesn't protect the wood from scratches and dings from playing. If your guitar is made from a softer wood like Alder or Basswood, it's not a good idea to have an oil finish as it will get dinged up quickly. While this may be an advantage to some, to others it's a turn off - the finish doesn't get nice and shiny like a nitro or poly finish does. You'll always have a dull, "satin" finish.

Image hosting by PhotobucketFrench Polish This is probably the oldest method of achieving a high-polish shine on a musical instrument. French Polishing was first used on fine furniture and was adopted by violin makers. It is a labor-intensive process that involves a lot of hand buffing (polishing) to put many small layers of shellac on an instrument.

Very accomplished French polishers will color different shellacs to create different burst effects. The practical upshot of this process is that it creates a beautiful, durable finish that is very light. Giving you a finish that rivals a nitro with nearly the amazing clarity of an oil finish. Of course, such labor don't come cheap. You can expect to pay hundreds if not thousands more for an instrument that has a French polish. Ed Roman ("bargain" high-end pricing) offers a French polish finish on his Quicksilver guitars for $350. I consider that a bargain.


I hope you enjoyed this look into the world of guitar finishes. I barely scratched the surface. I didn't go into the different dyes or how one finish "burns" into its previous layers or how another finish layers on top of itself. I didn't talk about buffing or drying or applying or environmental considerations. What I hope I did is whet your appetite to find out more information.

If you do want to learn more, please visit the Musical Instrument Maker's Forum. If you register (it's free!), you have access to their library and TONS of information about building your own guitar, or maybe just touching up one that you already own.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Caveat Blogger

Read a very interesting piece at National Review Online about yesterday's Washington Post Live Online chat with Jim Brady, Jay Rosen, Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis and Jane Hamsher about interactivity and the media. The artcile, is short, I suggest you give it a quick read.

Back? Okay, so basically, popular left-leaning blogs can get away with having an active comment section because they don't have to worry about the media attributing comments from Cosmo the Wonder Conspiracist to their blog or them personally. I think Glenn Reynolds brings up a good point about him not allowing comments and the fact that comments from Jack the NeoFacist may very well get attributed to him. The fact that a Reuters article bore out his point is makes his comment all the more poignant.

However, Dean Esmay has a very interesting post about commenting that anyone who worries about such things as the media mentioning their blog should take a look at. I think it's a very healthy point of view. Personally, I love commenting. I am a serial commentor at several blogs, as most of you know. And I love the debates that they can generate. But I well understand the issues that can arise if you run a high-traffic site like Dean's World or Instapundit.

I guess, what I'm trying to say here is that I respect both of these men's point of view and that, you know, different strokes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Another funny Narnia rap

By now, I'm sure that everyone's seen or knows about the Lazy Sunday: Chronic (WHAT!) cles of Narnia SNL skit.

But the deranged minds of Mark Feurstein, Sam Friedlander, and Adam Stein present us with Lazy Monday: Color Me Mine -- the West Coast reply.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Film meme

1. Earliest Film Related Memory I'm not sure exactly. But my earliest memories of film-going experiences was when I was between 8 - 11 living in Colorado Springs. I would walk to the base theater every weekend and catch the weekend matinee. They played great old flicks like the old Hercules movies and the Ray Harryhausen Sinbads. GREAT memories. Greated the film fanatic in me.

2. A Favorite Line from a Movie

Dr. Roger Fleming: Ranger Brad, I'm a scientist, I don't believe in anything.

And just about every other line from The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.

3. Jobs You Would Do If You Could Work in the Biz Ugh. Anything that didn't involve me being in the limelight. Producer? Music Producer? Something like that.

4. Three Directors I Like
My favorites: Terry Gilliam, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino; honorable mention: Robert Rodriguez

5. Screenwriter I Love

Charlie Kaufman. 'Nuff said.

6. A Movie I'd like to Re-Make or a Property I would Like to Adapt for Film
I, like Lisa, despise remade movies. So, a "property" I would adapt would be Clive Barker's Abarat series. It's actually already being adapted for film. Disney has bought the rights. Hopefully they'll treat 'em well.

It's my day to be inspired by Lisa, I guess.

Poisoning the pot

Lisa's most recent rumination made me think, "Wait, I have kids that are still young enough to be doing cute things. Perhaps I should actually write a couple of things down before I forget them."

Last night, I had the helm in the kitchen. The wife had to do some church-related visiting and that left me in charge of grub. No worries, meatloaf was planed and even I can handle that. Actually I’m a pretty good cook.

So, the loaf o’ beef is in the oven and I’m getting some of the side dishes ready. I decided to make some homemade fried cheese sticks because I’m masochistic like that.

As I get things in order, I call my daughters in from playing outside and tell them to go get washed up. They return to the kitchen table. My youngest (4, almost 5!) asks me what’s for dinner. My oldest (6), tells her, “Daddy already said meatloaf, mashed potatoes and it looks like he’s making cheese sticks too,” as I drop the harder-to-make-than-I-thought-they’d-be cheese sticks into hot oil. I had earlier told her that I wasn’t sure if I was going to make them.

I told her, “Yes honey. I did a taste test earlier and decided it was fine to make.”

She replies, “Yeah. You had to test them to make sure they weren’t poison.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded.

Jeff Harrell gets it. His new post at Wizbang is amazing. Terrorists have been waging war on us far longer than Sept. 11, 2001. Sometimes we need reminding.

A great excerpt:
The war on terrorism is very much a war of bombs and bullets in which soldiers and civilians die. It's also an economic war, a war waged in dollars and cents on dusty ledgers in banks in New York and London and Geneva. But more than any of those things, it's a war of ideas. It's a war that will, when it reaches its eventual conclusion, finally settle the question of what kind of world we're going to live in.

Read the entire thing and make sure to visit Jeff at The Shape of Days.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A good solution all around

If the trees have to go, they should be put to the best possible use.

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A beautiful acoustic with walnut sides and curly redwood back.

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A nice example of good old redwood.

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A beautiful redwood burl for a solid-body guitar back or top. Although the site owner that this came from said the picture is a bit too orange for redwood. It's probably much closer in color to the back of the acoustic guitar above.

I think using the wood in musical instruments is a good solution all around. The trees get to be repurposed into something that can bring real joy to folks all around and the farmers get their vineyards -- for whatever that's worth. ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2006


The UK has decided that they won't be airing the In the Closet episode of South Park where they poke fun at the "Church" of $cientology and Tom Cruise.

Apparently, they are afraid that Tom will sue. With good reason -- he's been known to drop lawsuits faster than he brainwashes "girlfriends."

But, for all those in the UK, and the US who want to see and haven't, you can watch it here. Just scoll down a bit.

w/t Emily.

Friday, January 20, 2006

This day in history...

25 years ago today the greatest U.S. president of the 20th century was inaugurated.

Twenty-five years ago today, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States promising less intrusive government, lower tax rates and victory over communism. On that same day, the American hostages in Iran were freed after 444 days of captivity. If the story of history is one long and arduous march toward freedom, this was a momentous day well worth commemorating.

From WSJ Opinion.

Republicans could do themselves a favor by revisiting the lessons of this great man.

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 13: Vernon Reid

UPDATE: For a short sample of his guitar playing, click here.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOne my first music teachers told me that anyone can be taught to play the guitar. She was right. Just about anyone can be taught the basic chords and how to strum along to the 4/4 time of most popular music. What she didn't say is that very few people become good guitarists. And fewer people still have the motivation, talent and drive to become great guitarists.

There is a difference between a good or really good guitarist and a great one. A good guitarist knows everything that a great one does. He can play the things the great ones do. He can sound just like the great one. The difference is that the great ones create their own sound. The create tunes to be emulated. They make music that other people want to sound like. A distinct way of playing - their sound, their tone, their choice of notes, scales and chords.

Pick up a Rolling Stones album. You know what "Keef" sounds like. You know that jangly, special, five-string Fender Tele is about to start you up. Gilmour can stike a note and hold it 'til it rings forever and you know it's him. You know by the quality of it's note. Hendrix assaulted us with feedback-laden, just out of tune notes and chords. It was a constant sonic barrage. No one plays like Hendrix. Steve Vai pops notes. Vai can play like anyone but you still know it's Vai. He's the only person I can think of that can do that.

The point I am making is that many good guitarists make a good deal of money in music. Many good guitarists have performed in songs that have gone down in the pantheon of all-time favorites. But we never remember their names. Great guitarists may write music that gets dated fast, or music that sticks around forever - regardless of what they play, we remember their name.

Vernon Reid is this kind of guitarist. Unique. His music bounces and frolics. It meanders like a kid in a candy store. Sometimes it spots exactly what it wants and pleads for it. Sometimes it rolls through the aisles haphazardly, finding its course as it goes, but maintaining sharp focus on the matter at hand.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comReid plays aggressive or soft. Heavy metal, soul or jazz. But you know who's fretting the notes because he's distinct in his presentation. He has a wild picking style and his playing may sound sloppy at first, but you soon realize it's intentional. Everything he strums has the exact amount of clarity he envisions. He cleverly pulls back when needed. Some guitarists never realize that sometimes it what you don't play that's important.

Making a name for himself as the guitarist for Living Colour, Reid and the band burst onto the scene with the 1988 release of Vivid which included the smash hit Cult of Personality. They followed it up with the critically acclaimed sophomore release Time's Up and rode the success for years even being included in the 1991 Lalapalooza line-up. But after the first couple of years of the '90s, the band began to fade from the public eye. They released Stain in 1993 and it received mixed reviews (though it is my personal favorite LC album). It was the first LC album to feature super-bassist Doug Wimbish.

What followed Stain was a decade of greatest hit releases until the band reformed and release CollideOscope in 2003. The musical future of Living Colour is unknown, but Vernon Reid continues to play releasing solo albums and doing a lot of work with other musicians.

It's impossible to separate Reid from his work empowering black music history. He co-founded the Black Rock Coalition and solidly acknowledges his musical roots.

Suggested Listenings:
Cult Of Personality, Vivd (1988)
Type, Time's Up (1990)
Ignorance Is Bliss, Stain (1993)
Nothingness, Stain (1993)
His solo album Known Unknown (2004)

What book are you?

You're A People's History of the United States!

by Howard Zinn

After years of listening to other peoples' lies, you decided you've
had enough. Now you're out to tell it like it is, with all the gory details and nothing
left out. Instead of respecting leaders, you want to know what the common people have to
offer. But this revolution still has a long way to go, and you're not against making a
little profit while you wait. Honesty is your best policy.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Well. Yes and no, I guess. I have a lot of respect for our leaders 1775 to the early 1900s though. The early 1900s to present is spotty though.

Stolen from Sheila.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Four months, 10K

Today I had my 10,000th visitor. Oddly enough, site visitor #10K was me. So, in the interest of fairness, the real 10K visitor, the next hit on the ole site meter, was
a 0 second visit from a panagora.com domain, Referring URL http://www.obscurora...com/obscurorant.html. So, thanks for stopping by!

I had no idea I would hit 10K so fast, but that doggone blond joke thing gave me some amazing traffic for about a week. Things have slowed down quite a bit the past couple of days, but I'm doing about twice my previous traffic. Nice, I guess.

Thanks for taking the time to check me out everybody!

Travelogue Thursday: Avery Island, LA

HA! And you thought I was just going off on some bizarre tangent yesterday! But there was a method to my madness -- a travelogue teaser!

This week's - week, HA! I'm lucky if I can squeeze out one of these a month. But anyway, today's travelogue covers Avery Island, LA - a picturesque garden of oriental plants and accoutrements, a bird sanctuary, and home to the McIlhenny Co., makers of Tabasco Sauce.

My first experience with Avery Island was on my honeymoon in 1994. The wife and I had decided that we didn't really want to go just one place for our honeymoon. So, we drove through southern Louisiana and did a quick stop on the Mississippi coast to say hi to some pals.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWe didn't have any stops planned, but decided to drive Hwy. 167 south until we married up with Hwy. 90 and would stop at any interesting sites along the way. A couple of those stops are for future travelogues, but the stop that probably had the greatest impact on us both was Avery Island.

Hwy. 167 merges into I-49 in Alexandria and it was pretty smooth sailing down to Lafayette and all of that beautiful country. We got onto 90 and the horrible condition of that road slowed down our travels considerably. Slowed enough that a sign that says, "Avery Island Jungle Garden and Bird Sanctuary Ahead" caught our eye and prompted us to take the trip. And (see map) it's only about 10 miles off of Hwy. 90 and only an hour down the road from Lafayette.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI'm not sure what we were expecting but what we found has become one of our favorite places on Earth. Avery Island is owned by the McIlhenny Company and the area not taken up by the Tabasco Plant is a jungle garden and bird sanctuary. A swamp with bamboo, a Buddha-infested shrine, torii gates and beauty.

One of the first things you will notice there will be a slight stinging in the eyes from the Tabasco plant. It's not bad and you quickly get used to.

We were shocked at every turn that this little salt flat in the middle of nowhere Louisiana had been turned into an Oriental jungle garden paradise. What's interesting is that this chapter in my life served as a foreshadowing moment as the next place I lived - for a real length of time - was Okinawa.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOh, I have some personal photos of this and future trips to Avery Island. However, I'm both too lazy to find the ones I want to use and most of them are a bit too personal to post. I was lucky enough to find some gorgeous shots from a Google Images search.

Yes. 'Gators abound. And they roam free. There are no fences. You are warned when you enter the park to watch where you walk. However, most of the waterside scenery is via drive-by. You can get as close to a 'gator as you'd care too on any given day. I suggest you only get close enough for a decent zoom lens shot.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOne of the main oddity attractions to the jungle gardens is a Buddhist shrine. Given the setting, it looks in place. Rather than being juxtaposed against the Cajun culture off the island, the garden provides the transformation needed for one to temporarily forget they're in the middle of Acadiana. You are surrounded by the pretty scenery and this odd, brightly colored shrine, with a 900-year-old Buddha statue in it.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOutside the shrine, on a little plaque, is an inscription that reads:

Peacefully I rest upon this lagoon's bank
As pale green bamboos sway above my throne.
Clouds of blossoms soften the sifted light
Falling golden and misty through the boughs above.
Long days of travel have brought me from my home,
Yet I have known no hour of calmer rest....

E.A. McIlhenny wrote that in 1936 and I think it puts one in the mood of the place. The condensed story of the statue is this: An inscription on the statue says that it was fashioned by Chon-Ha-Chin, a noted maker of Buddha statues in ancient times. The Emperor Hui-Tsung (1100-1125) ordered the statue for the Shonfa temple in northeast Beijing. Later, the temple was looted by a rebel general who sent the statue by sea to New York in 1936. A friend of the McIlhennys purchased the statue as a gift and had it shipped to Avery Island.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comNear the shrine, well, throughout the jungle garden, really, is bamboo and little trails leading you through it. I wish this photo was mine, but it was taken by Darren Clark. It is wonderful and you can see more of his stuff at his website: http://darrenclarkphoto.net and click the blog link also, awesome, AWESOME stuff!

As with any vegetation-laden area in Louisiana, you must expect to get eaten alive by bugs. You CANNOT! forget bug spray. I suggest wearing sleeves and long pants also. Those of you in the Southeast may think you know bugs, but if you haven't been to Louisiana, you do not. A completely different level of mosquito thrives in the land of Louisiana. An evil breed. They will be the ones pushing all other mosquitoes backs against the wall when the mosquito revolution comes.

So, if you find yourself in southern Louisiana or if you live there and (God forbid) have never been, take the time to stop in and marvel at how beautiful man can co-exist with nature. Make sure to tour the Tabasco plant also, neat stuff there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The greatest pepper sauce ever made

Image hosted by Photobucket.comInspired by my last post, I decided to give some props to the McIlhenny Farms' genius product -- Tabasco sauce. There are literally thousands of different pepper sauces sold, but Tabasco maintains it's popularity. Livining up soups, sauces and all matter of other dishes it is an America icon.

Located at Avery Island, LA, the McIlhenny Company suffered damage from both Hurricane's Katrina and Rita. They resumed full operations in late September 2005.

Here's a neat article giving a little Tabasco history.

Chili with Tabasco

Hormel Chili is only slightly above dog food as far as edible canned products are concerned. However, their new chili with Tabasco is a fantastic product. Discuss.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Penelope vs. Paz

Chatting over at Sheila's about the Golden Globes this morning, I came up with a neat idea: I should do a post about Penelope Cruz and Paz Vega. If you don't know either of these lovely ladies, take the time to click the IMDb links I provided.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comImage hosted by Photobucket.comCruz should be familiar to most movie goers as she has done a number of larger Hollywood films such as Sahara, Gothika, Vanilla Sky, All the Pretty Horses among many others. She also maintains a hectic film schedule in her home country of Spain and throughout Europe. She is also a board certified hottie.

Vega is another Spanish actress and is, in my opinion, going to be the Penelope Cruz when we can't get Penelope Cruz actress. It could work in her favor if she continues to deliver the kind of inspired performances she gave in Spanglish. One of the things she has going for her, and what actually inspired this post, is that I believe she speaks English more clearly than Cruz. That can't hurt her US film career. Oh, she's also a board certified hottie.

Okay, so I've decided that I want these two to have a little throwdown. I've come up with some entirely arbitrary categories and I'm judging them using my entirely biased opinions. So, here goes:

1.Birthdate: Penelope was born 28 April 1974 and Paz was born 2 January 1976. I am tempted to call this one a draw. Cruz shares my birthyear and Vega shares my birthmonth ... I'm going to have to concede to my fellow Capricorn. Winner: Vega.

Film History: I WANT to give this to Vega, hands down, because, I think, I WANT to like her more. I mean, I DO, but in the interest of competition, I have to look at their film history and who is more important to the American audience. Give the bulk of work Cruz has done in Hollywood and the fact that I've only seen Vega in Spanglish this is a pretty one-sided category. Winner: Cruz.

Film Future: Based on what I see on IMDb, there is a lot of work in both of these actresses' futures. However, again on IMDb, Vega has six projects upcoming to Cruz's four. Even though half of Vega's are foreign, it still counts in this category. Winner: Vega.

Have I ever seen one of their foreign films? This may seem a little strange, but I used to work for a video store that carried a good amount of foreign films -- given that they received decent US press from critics. The only Spanish film I have ever seen is a Penelope Cruz movie: Sin noticias de Dios (called Don't Tempt Me in the US release). While I enjoyed it, I've seen better. But still, it means that this round is also easy to score. Winner: Cruz.

Quality of performance: A difficult category to judge, even when I'm approaching from my completly biased mind. I've seen so many things with Cruz in it and only one with Vega. However, the power of Vega's performance was impressive. The downside is that she was playing a mom and the child actor was REALLY good and definitely helped the part. Cruz has also done some outstanding things, though some of it is definitely overrated. But Captain Corelli's Mandolin, wow. The biggest answer to this is that Cruz did Sahara* therefore she loses. Winner: Vega.

Presence on the web: Well, the Marine Corps doesn't seem to want aGoogle Fight between the two. But doing it the old-fashioned way, Cruz turned up: Results 1 - 10 of about 2,040,000 for penelope cruz. (0.09 seconds); Vega: Results 1 - 10 of about 2,300,000 for paz vega. (0.15 seconds). Wow, I didn't expect that. Paz is probably getting hits for former APC bassist Paz Lenchantin also. I was going to go into some other stuff, but Vega's response on the Google fight kind of leaves me stumped. I will say this, if you do a Google Image search on either of these ladies, be careful!!! Even with safe search on, you will get some NSFW results. So, the winner is kind of all of us, but, categorically, Winner: Vega.

So, Vega wins 4-2!!! Even I wasn't expecting that. But, seriously, check out these actresses work, you'll thank yourself.

*Disclaimer: I actually like Sahara, however, it's this kind of movie that really hurts serious film making. When a movie like this makes tons of money, it gets harder to make a Spanglish or Masked and Anonymous.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Wunder Outing

A great way to spend a day off is always cooking some food outdoors. So, my fam and Pica reader Crotalus and reader/fellow blogger WunderKraut hooked up to burn some cow.

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Here we are (me, Wunder, and Crotalus) braving the harsh south Georgia winter.

And by the way, Wunder and Crot, here's the link to my essay on grilling a damn good steak.

P.S. I believe the camera's adding about 50 pounds a piece here.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Ben Kingsley is awesome. Discuss.

Also, this was inspired by Alex so check out her second post about the oscars. Amazing depth and knowledge. Fantastic.

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 12: The vibrato tremolo

"Two Guitar articles in one week! He must be inspired!" No. I have nothing else to talk about. However, I hope you find this installment's topic more interesting than the Jimmy Page, 'cause obviously no one cared about that.

Every decade or so something comes along that changes the way people approach playing the guitar, and, because of it's central focus in most popular music, it changes the way many genres of music are played. The tremolo bridge is one of those changes.

A tremolo bridge holds the strings at the tail end of the guitar, usually has a tremolo arm and allows the guitar player to apply a varying degree of vibrato to a note or chord by using the arm to apply or relieve the tension on the strings. Interestingly, what we call a "tremolo" is actually a "vibrato." Vibrato is a change in pitch where a tremolo is a change in volume. But, way back in the day, Leo Fender patented a unit for the Stratocaster called the synchronized tremolo and we've called it that ever since.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com The first commercially successful tremolo/vibrato unit was the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. It incorporates a spring loaded tremolo arm, or whammy bar that controls the tension of a bar that crosses all six strings. The bar raises or lowers to release or increase tension on the strings causing the pitch to lower or rise.

There were some downsides to the Bigsby unit. First, the change is pitch is relatively moderate. When first introduced, rockabilly players used them to add vibrato to their melodies. But as people sought more extreme pitch changes, the Bigsby couldn't really deliver. Second, raising notes by pushing down on the arm was no problem, but lowering notes by pulling up became an issue. When pulling up too high, the spring could fall out.

Despite these problems, the Bigsby is a popular unit and is still used on many classic hollow-body rockabilly guitars and special model Les Pauls and the like.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comHowever, Due to these problems, Leo Fender created the synchronized tremolo which popularized the term tremolo (Leo was an engineer, not a musician).

Rather than simply screwing to the top of the guitar, the Fender tremolo actually passes through the body, as shown in the diagram. It allows greater control over pitch changes and you don't have to worry about losing any springs. You can see that the spring tension is maintained at the bottom of the route (it also passes string vibrations to the body of the guitar this way -- leading many people to believe that these springs were part of the classic Fender mojo). The unit is held in place by and pivots on, two screws. The bridge has special partial circles that partially encircle an indent under the screw heads. This treolo unit also changed the way you changed the pitch. Now, string tension is directly effected by the whammy bar as the entire bridge is moved. Pushing the bar down, toward the body, causes slack in the strings as the bridge is moved forward. Pulling the bar up, the bridge moves back, increasing tension and raising the pitch.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comJust about any guitarist you can think of has, at one time or another played a guitar with this style tremolo bridge.
Not only has this tremolo fundamentally changed music. It has spawned many licensed copies. Pictured here is one of the best -- a Wilkinson tremolo unit. It smooths some edges and is a bit more playable than a factory Fender unit. This unit has such popularity that Fender has begun installing Wilkinson units in their high-end model guitars.

The issue with Fender-style tremolos is tuning. If you've ever heard any Jimi Hendrix songs live, you know he beat the hell out of his whammy bar. You also know that half way though songs he suffered tuning issues. Feedback and the very sloppy distortion of the era helped hide this. Todays compressed, chorused, tight digital recording environments would never allow for this. Even in the late '70s, as recording and live sound got cleaner and mistakes and sound variances became more apparent, guitarists sought greater tuning stability.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comEnter the Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo. This is probably the last truly significant change in tremolo/vibrato technology. While there have been improvements and tweeks, the double locking system revamped, again, the way people approached guitar playing.

Introduced in 1979, the system is similar to the Fender tremolo in that it passes through a route in the guitar body. Tension is provided by the same springs in the same place as the Fender system. The difference is that the Floyd Rose bridge locks the strings in place with a little block. You cut the balls off the end of the strings and the strings lock in place. THEN, you tune the guitar and the strings are locked at the top of the guitar with a special locking nut. This creates extreme tuning stability and spawned the divebombing and extreme pitch modulation style of play among the heavy metal guitarists of the '80s. Eddie Van Halen probably did more to create the style, but Steve Vai is the certified master of tremolo play.

Today's tweeks have involved a variaty of ways to produce this double locking system. In the late '80s, engineer Ned Steinberger introduced a series of "headless" guitars where the ball end of the strings are at the former headstock end and the strings are tuned at the bridge. This is one of the most stable tuning systems and allows some of the most extreme style of play. However, the headless neck was a bit extreme to most guitarists and it fills a very niche market.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comRecently, guitar manufacturer Ibanez introduced the Edge Pro style tremolo. It's very similar to the Floyd Rose style trem, but you don't have to cut the end of the string off and it eliminates many of the sharp edges that the Floyd Rose has.

Another solution people use is to continue to use a Fender-style bridge but use locking tuners creating tuning stability. It's a popular solution for people who like the ability to change their strings quickly like a Fender but like the tuning stability of a Floyd Rose.

Me? I prefer no tremolo. Give me good ole tune-o-matics. But it's always good to know your instrument.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Stolen from Hood at File it Under.

Your Sins are Revealed, Your Fate is Sealed
Your sin has been measured. You have committed many sins, but Sloth is the mortal sin that has done you in. Just below, discover your full sinful breakdown and learn what it is about you that condemns you to hell.


Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

Blonde joke amazement

By now most folks must know about the blonde joke circulating the 'sphere. I jumped on the bandwagon because I thought it was truly funny and was interested to see how far it would go. I certainly didn't do it for the site traffic. However, that seems to be the side effect of being linked by some large sites through such a thing.

I am no high-traffic site. My daily visits average around 40. Yesterday I logged on my normal time (6:30 a.m.) and my traffic was already at 90. I closed the day out with nearly 1,000 hits! This morning, normal time, and I already had 160 hits.

What's interesting to me is that something silly has lead to so much traffic, although most are 0 second visits on the way to the next blond joke. I just thought that my core audience, those I write for, would be interested to know this little tidbit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Happy birthday to my hero, Alexander Hamilton

Jan. 11, 1755 was the birthday of one of the greatest founding fathers -- surely the most precient of them. More than any of his peers, he produced volumes of work at tremendous speed with amazing sight into the future.

Sheila has a wonderful post up that says more than I can, but I will use this post to help push (again) the wonderful biography Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow.

Coffee musings

I got a burr grinder for Christmas. It has proven to be a wonderful gift. I have really enjoyed having a smooth even grind. That was always my problem with my blade grinder is that 3/4 of the beans would be fine ground (like I like) and 1/4 would be medium-ground to course. The burr grinder produces consistently even grind.

The link I provided lists several features of the grinder one of which is "85-watt motor works efficiently and without excess noise." This is b*lls**t. It's as loud as a blender. I have no issues with this, but it was surprising.

I use a regular automatic-drip coffee maker. I bought a permanent coffee filter a while ago, but often use paper filters with it. Primarily for the convenience of cleaning up, but I have learned that paper filters also block out some of the oils that get into the coffee. They also block the finer, powdery grounds that accumulate during grinding. I have begun debating whether or not I like this.

Over the past four or five days I have been experimenting. I brewed a few batched with paper filters in my permanent filter and a few without. I believe I prefer the permanent filter sans paper. You tend to get more sediment in your coffee, and the oils (for whatever that's worth), but there's a subtle, pleasing taste that's in the coffee when you don't use a paper filter. I'm not sure if it's due to the sediment or oil, but it tastes richer and more complex.

Anyone else ever notice this? Bingley? Am I a putz?

Play Bingo ...

... the Dean Esmay way.

I bet I could call BINGO several times within 30 minutes of surfing certain sites.

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 11: Jimmy Page

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI am not the smartest man, nor am I the dumbest. But there are times that something so glaringly obvious hits me square in the middle of the forehead that I wonder how far away I am from the depths of stupidity. The latest entry causing me to question my intelligence is my recent realization that I like Jimmy Page.

This is not to say that I didn't like Page or Led Zeppelin. My earliest introductions to heavy metal/hard rock included plenty of Zep', however I was never a huge fan. So I never cultivated much appreciation for Page's skills.

The other day, during my lazy weekend, I was downloading something length and decided to throw on some tunes while I waited. I pulled up my folders and Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti caught my eye, so I cued it up. I clicked through some of the more familiar tracks and suddenly these tracks weren't quite so familiar. There was more subtlety than I remembered, more ambiance to the production and Page exhibited far more technical skill than I ever remembered.

It's literally been over a decade since I had given any Zeppelin a critical listen and the more I listened, the more I realized that I had never given them one. Or, perhaps, that my ear has matured enough to appreciate Page and Zep' in ways I never did before.

To be fair, I cut my teeth on punk (the real punk: Sex Pistols, Misfits, DK -- not that pop punk crap of today) and early metal. I was into anything loud, aggressive and fast. As I began to become more interested in learning to play an instrument, I cultivated an interest in the neo-classic guitarists. Sure there was plenty of listening to Zep' anthems like Stairway or Kashmir, but I just never gave them the credit due.

Too many guitarists credit Page with influencing their playing to not take notice of his playing. From heavy pure rock songs like Black Dog to complex instrumental work like Bron-Yr-Ur he proves his guitar knowledge and taste again and again. What I had thought was sloppy picking or off time playing was calculated and brilliant.

So, to all who have in the past chided me for scoffing at Page's guitar playing, I apologize. Man. I am such a putz sometimes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Great blonde joke

You know me, I'm always up for any joke that singles out one segment of the populace for ridicule and exclusion. So, it was with great appreciation that I read this fantastic blonde joke at the Coalition of the Swilling.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Nietzsche's mustache

Ken McCracken at WILLisms has an interesting post up about aphorisms from Nietzsche. However, read the comments and you'll see that the first commenter, Will's superfan Zsa Zsa, makes remarks about Nietzsche's mustache and the comments roll from there.

Apparently, these good folks are unaware of the World's Beard and Mustache Competition. Now that's some facial hair!

Lazy weekend

Have you ever had one of those weekends where you don't have much of anything to do but somehow you manage to stay busy enough to not really get anything accomplished? That was me. All weekend.

I mean, most of the time, I don't have any purpose direction or motivation during the weekends, but I usually find something somewhat productive to occupy my time -- whether it be something geared toward the house and home or my own trivial pursuits. But not this weekend. My (almost) six-month-old sapped most of my time Saturday and Sunday I was in what I can only describe as a bronchitis-induced funk.

Thanks to Uzz for posting the links to Lazy Sunday, which was hilarious (visit him for more information) and provided some good chuckles this weekend.

No deep thoughts. No humorous anecdotes. No mentionable happenings.

I certainly hope y'all had more going on.

Friday, January 06, 2006

So, when did ...

... every American collectively get an H.G. Wells time machine?

The Cosmic Conservative answers that question.

Damn you Nightfly!

I've been tagged. So, I have to list five of my quirks. Well, here goes:

1. I, like 'Fly, get upset at small things but handle big things really well. My kids didn't pick up their toys in the living room, I lose my mind. Budget's too tight to make it through the month? No worries -- we'll make it somehow. It never ceases to amaze me how well I can handle larger problems but the little things will send into a white-hot rage, which brings me to ...
2. I have a terrible temper. I've blogged about it before (and am too lazy to look up the link right now). I lose my mind all out of proportion to the problem. I really need to get a better handle on it.
3. I tend to listen to one album or collection of a group's work for long periods of time instead of a variety. I like to absorb music. It's like studying a subject. I like to immerse myself in the music. I will rotate through bands like this. I almost only ever critically listen to music. I can't only listen to an album once (unless it really bites).
4. I have seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show more times that any human should.
5. I cannot relax in a vehicle if I am not driving unless I take my mind off of the driving all together. I mean, by reading or getting involved in a conversation with another person in the vehicle (generally not the driver). This is a control issue. I'm aware of that. It's not a lack of trust in the other person's abilities, but an uncomfortable feeling that things are happening outside of my normal sphere of influence. It's weird.

Okay. I've fulfilled by blogtractual obligation. 'Fly tagged five people, I don't know how many I'm supposed to or not. I guess I'll tag my new blog friend Tracey.

My Name is Earl

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The best show on TV. Discuss.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Newly rolled

I added a couple of new folks to my list of Unusual Suspects. Tracey's site Worship Naked was added after discovering her site from Sheila. Fun and witty, I look forward to further good discussions.

I also added Molten Thought that I discovered via a comment at Worship Naked. I was immediately taken by the super cool deco flag. Very cool and I look forward to reading more there also.


Read this and then come back. You'll understand better when I say: The only rehabilitation I believe is effective comes from the smoking barrel of my rifle.

More new Doctor Who

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I finally got my hands on the new Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion Christmas special. I am SO psyched for the new season. Like most, I was upset that Christopher Eccleston only did one season -- he had become The Doctor to me. But I feel that David Tennant did a fantastic job and is going to be a good Doctor. I hope he decides to do more than one season.

One thing I've noticed about the new series is that the doctors are wearing more conservative clothing. I have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, the last few doctors' outfits had become less eccentric and more of a costume. But, on the other hand, the first four doctors had wild, eccentric clothing as a matter of choice. It fit their personality as if it was implying that the dust jacket was as interesting as the content.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Doctor Who universe or the new series the official BBC site has a vast repository of information.

Check it out.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Top 25 all-time best metal albums Pt. 4

Well, I lost a bit of steam there over the holidays. I’ve just been so lethargic during the past two weeks and it’s been difficult to bring myself back from the holiday edge.

I haven’t had much time for music listening the past two weeks either outside of Christmas related fare. We did have some long car rides, but I have to censor what music I play in the vehicle to appease the spouse and the children. Anywho, glad to be back and on with the list:

Quickly, a recap of 1-17:

#1: Slayer – Reign in Blood
#2 Megadeth – Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?
#3 Metallica – Master of Puppets
#4 Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
#5 tie Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind and Iron Maiden – Powerslave
#6 Black Sabbath – Paranoid
#7 Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz
#8 Metallica - Ride the Lightening
#9 AC/DC - Back in Black
#10 Judas Priest – British Steel
#11 Guns and Roses - Appetite For Destruction
#12 Megadeth - Rust in Peace
#13 Dream Theater - Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory
#14 Motley Crue - Shout at the Devil
#15 tie Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest for the Wicked and Black Label Society - The Blessed Hellride
#16 Danzig - Danzig
#17 Slayer - Seasons in the Abyss

#18: Dio - Holy Diver: I am no big fan of Dio, but his impact on the genre is undeniable. He popularized the operatic style of metal singing and is almost as iconic as Ozzy Osbourne. It’s fitting, I guess, as he filled frontman position in Sabbath after the Ozzman’s departure. Holy Diver is Dio’s best entry and is very listenable, even though I’ve always felt that Ronnie James has always sounded like an angry elf.

#19: Joe Satriani - Surfing With the Alien: The only instrumental album on the list. I tend to think that instrumentals can’t really compete against the bands with singers in heavy metal. Metal requires a singer to really give the song the depth and placement it needs. However, there are exceptions. Surfing With the Alien is the album that made guitar-based instrumental rock cool again. There were bands that pre-date (The Vultures), there are some who do it better, but there’s no one who has had the impact on instrumental guitar rock that Satriani has. He taught Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, George Lynch and a litany of other guitar slingers. This is his main power in the field, not so much what he has written (though that is profound also) but how he has inspired others to new levels.

#20: Dokken - Back For the Attack: Once again straying into hair metal here, but Dokken served one blazing album with Back …. Their previous and later albums lacked the vitality of this entry. Something here really clicked. I think part of the problem with Dokken is that you had two very strong and distinct musical personalities attempting to dominate the spotlight. Don Dokken is a great singer and George Lynch is a great guitarist and they both wrote some good songs. But they butted heads often and it eventually led to their break up. Lynch went on to do some cool things with his own band The Lynch Mob and later with Dokken again.

Great tracks on the album include Lynch’s instrumental Mr. Scary, which is what really established him as a real guitar hero among a throng of pretenders, Prisoner, and Dream Warriors which was the title track for the third installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. A bit of trivia about that: For the video, Lynch was playing a skull and bones guitar. This guitar, in the video, had a neck by guitar manufacturer ESP. However the guitar was built by J. Frog (click here to see J. Frog guitars carried by Ed Roman Guitars and read more about the story). At the time (and currently, I believe) Lynch was sponsored by ESP and they threw a fit about him using a different guitar in the video. So he had to switch necks. This caused a huge stink and many folks thought ESP was making this guitar. They eventually did produce some, but far inferior to the J. Frog original.

#21: Tool - Lateralus: I love these guys for the music they produce. I think they’re the best band that the ‘90s produced. However, I hate them for the music and musician they have inspired. Emo most certainly predates them, but Tool gave the Emo genre a shot of caffeineadrenalinecrack in the ass. Which is funny, since Tool is most certainly not an Emo band. They have also inspired a plethora of “minimalist” musicians who for some ungodly reason think that playing one note for 20 freaking minutes is somehow cool.

All that said, Tool makes great music. I cannot believe how good their effing drummer is. Now, Danny Carey is a kook, but he is unbelievably good. Listen closely to Lateralus and you’ll swear that he’s multitracked some drum tracks. Amazingly enough, he plays it all live. There is some amazing polyrhythm going on here. What he does is so essential to Tool’s sound and power that it’s difficult to separate him from the band, or any member, honestly.

#22: Anthrax - Among the Living: Anthrax is a mainstay metal band to this day (in fact, they are back to their original lineup). It is unfortunate that their chosen name became controversial in recent years, but they have always stomped. And that is the best description of Anthrax’s tunes – music to stomp by.

Scott Ian (now a regular on whatever VH1 "Remember" show is playing) has a knack for writing these circular sounding rhythms that pound away at you. Just as you become accostomed to the rhythm, they change the pace with some blistering speed. Danny Spitz has always been one of the most off-the-wall lead guitarists. He obviously knows what he’s doing but plays off time, off key and discordant. Vocalist Joey Belladonna, drummer Charlie Benante and bassist Frank Bello are equally solid. Bello is especially memorable as he follows in the footsteps of amazing Maiden bassist Steve Harris.

Among the Living has excellent tracks on it like the title track, Caught in a Mosh and I Am the Law.

#23 Van Halen - 1984: This was a hard one, and further down the list than it should perhaps be. One of the reasons this is ranking toward the end of my top 25 is that I have a hard time thinking of Van Halen as heavy metal, even though they arguably are the granddaddies of most modern metal acts. In fairness, I felt that if I put Crue and Dokken on the list, I needed to put Van Halen on there also.

Some may disagree with my choice of album, but this album was better known and more influential than any other VH production. It was also the last to feature David Lee Roth.

Eddie Van Halen is responsible for so many of the things rock and roll guitarists do today. He popularized the Floyd Rose double locking tremolo system which allows those "dive bombing" guitar notes. It is because of Van Halen that you could no longer just "know how to play guitar" and be successful. After Eddie, you had to be a great guitarist. Then Randy Rhodes appeared and the two of them set the guitar playing world on its ear. There may have been experimental guys doing some of this stuff (Robert Fripp perhaps?) but this was mainstream stuff! These albums were going gold and platinum.

Anywho, Van Halen is heavier than I remember. Every time Hot For Teacher cranks up I think, "Oh yeah, Van Halen rocks."

#24 Deep Purple - Machine Head: The progenitors of Duh, duh, duh! Duh! Duh! Duh-duh! Duh, duh, duh! Duh … Duh-duh! -- the most well known chord progression in rock and roll. Ritchie Blackmore and crew really wrote some great stuff back in the day. They are equals with Rush in their influence on heavy progressive rock. I must say that I like their most recent incarnation with Steve Morse on guitar. I’ve always been a fan of the Dixie Dregs and the Steve Morse Band, so it was cool to see him six slinging with Deep Purple.

#25 Testament - Practice What You Preach: I’m not sure how I discovered Testament, but I had their first four albums. Not only was their music good, but it was fun also. They really skipped around the extremes of the genre, topic-wise, singing about everything from demons and the devil to the environment and the human condition.

What really made Testament a great band, to me, was Alex Skolnick’s guitar playing and how well the rest of the band aligned to his style. Skolnick went on to form his own jazz group but he still plays with Testament on occasion as well as subbing in on guitars in Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. But these guys made fantastic music that lives on in the best of today’s metal.


Well, that’s the list. There were going to be some honorable mentions because of my wishy washy nature, but this was far more mentally taxing than I ever thought it was going to be. Perhaps I’ll stick to top ten lists in the future. For now, this wraps up this list.

Happy birthday to me

32 years ain't all that, I guess. I don't feel like a kid anymore -- that's for sure. Every year's been the same my entire life -- Christmas and New Year's break, back to school/work on my birthday. Oh well.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Home again; destruction redux

Well, I hope everyone had great holidays. We had a great time. We spent several days in Louisiana with my family. The kids had Christmas about three times, but never actually on Christmas day. That was actually kind of difficult. Next year we've decided that we'll do Christmas at home and won't be doing any traveling until after Christmas day.

We then went to Mississippi to spend a couple of days with my father-in-law in Biloxi. This trip was one part visit with family and one part (more important in many ways) a revisit to all the Katrina destruction. When I first went to the Coast a couple of weeks after Katrina, I got to see a lot of the destruction, but there were a lot of areas closed off to non-residents. Highway 90 (Beach Blvd.) was closed, and many of the businesses and places that are special to my family were along that road.

This trip, the road was open and we were able to see all along the beach. While we had seen the aerials from TV and some great shots by the Sun Herald staff, we didn't have that personal look that's required for a sense of closure.

What follows are some shots from the coast. Click on the pictures for full-size images:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com The Bombay Bicycle Club was where many of us doing local theater would go after practice to wind down. It was also the first "real bar" to serve an underage me alcohol. It is now demolished.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com At right is a casino that was formerly floating at the beach. It was picked up by winds and waves and pushed across the beach up onto land across all four lanes of Hwy 90. It appears to have crashed into a hotel (a Howard Johnson used to be where it is now). It's a massive thing. I believe this was the President Casino.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Lastly, this lot is where I believe my favorite library used to be. It's hard to tell because there was so much damage to the area, but there was no structure around that could have been the library -- so it had to be completely demolished. Sad. All those books ...

Well, it was heartbreaking, but something we really needed to do. Something that struck both the wife and I is that even going through this, even seeing all this destruction, it still felt like home. We still would love to move back there.

The other thing that struck us was the sense of pride and the rebuilding going on there. There were no people whining about what the goverment wasn't doing for them. Here were people picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and rebuilding. There is a long way to go and they still need a lot of help, but here's one place that's not going to whine in your face about what you're not doing for them.